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Petition supports renaming South Elementary

South isn’t south anymore in West Fargo.

A group of residents recently circulated a petition that garnered more than 100 signatures asking the school board to consider renaming South Elementary school.

The petition asks that the school be named after Dean W. Hall, the man who served as principal at the school for more than 25 years.

“We believe it would be only the right step in the right direction to name this facility in honor of the principal that served some 25 years at this facility,” said Duane Breitling, a longtime West Fargo resident who has led the charge to ask for a name change.

South Elementary, at 117 6th Ave. opened in 1941. The school was remodeled and a gymnasium built in 1973, the same year two other elementary schools were built and named for their geography: Eastwood and Westside.

When South was built, the name made sense since it joined only two other buildings, the district’s first school and Fairview, which was built in 1910 at Sheyenne Street.

But now that South Elementary is actually one of the northern most schools in the district and population continues to boom south of Interstate 94, residents say it’s time for change.

“South is no longer south because north doesn’t exist anymore,” Duane Breitling said.

Hall, a Rawson, N.D., native served as principal of South from 1962 until 1992 after serving as a teacher in the western North Dakota town of Stanley.

Hall died in 2013.

During his career, Hall was awarded the West Fargo Exchange Club’s Book of Golden Deed’s Award (the community’s highest honor), The Golden Apple Award from the North Dakota Association of Elementary School Principals and the Humanitarian Award from the Cass County Council for Exceptional children, among other recognitions.

But, Breitling said the support to change the school name to Hall is most evident by the former students and staff who signed the petition.

“I believe that honoring the memory of Dean Hall in this way would be very appropriate and would be supported ban appreciated by the many thousands of children who loved and respected him” Former Superintendent August Keller wrote in a letter to the school board.

Another superintendent, Marvin Leidal – the same man the school district office is named for – also wrote the board.

“Dean was a dedicated educator who daily showed children he deeply cared about them,” Leidal wrote.

Board President Kay Kiefer said a cost would be associated with a name change.

Business Manager Mark Lemer said the cost would likely be about $5,000 which includes changing the four exterior building signs to reflect the name change.

“I don’t know if the financial obligations there should stop you from doing this if there is widespread support for this,” Lemer said.

Lemer said if the cost was extreme, it should be considered but in this case, he didn’t feel a name change would be detrimental to the district’s budget.

If the name change goes through, it would join the other buildings named for those who worked in the district such as L.E. Berger Elementary, which is named for the school superintendent and Cheney earned its moniker from Superintendent Chuck Cheney.

The school board unanimously approved scheduling at least one public hearing on the name change proposal, which is part of the board’s new policy to rename schools. If public support for the proposal is evident, the board may take official action on the change.

The public hearing has not yet been scheduled, but will likely take place after school begins for the 2014-15 school year.

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and and at CBS Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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